Home Reviews Jayden Barber ‘Arabian Night Lights’ Album Review

    Jayden Barber ‘Arabian Night Lights’ Album Review

    Jayden Barber's 'Arabian Night Lights' is a dose of heavy scary ambient that flows like a bad and inescapable nightmare. Not for the faint of heart.

    Jayden Barber Arabian Night Lights
    Jayden Barber 'Arabian Night Lights'

    Ambient music has traditionally placed great emphasis on setting. The exact setting tends to be subjective to the creator, attempting to express space and surroundings through through a kind of audio journey. Take for instance, Brian Eno’s ‘Ambient 1: Music for Airports’; ‘Neighbourhoods’ by Ernest Hood which takes an instrumental stroll through Portland, Oregon; ‘The Disintegration Loops’ by William Basinski which is firmly rooted in in the folklore of September 11 (among the sonically curious, at least). And here we have ‘Arabian Night Lights’ by upstart ambient artist Jayden Barber. 

    It’s worth noting that the work of Jayden Barber is much more dense and avant-garde than the aforementioned genre leaders. Having gotten a start in the world of film making and sound art. His film ‘Sore Throat’ was scored using his own work, and was selected by the Chicago Indie Film Awards for Best Experimental. Since earning this vote of confidence for his holistic approach to film, Barber has continued his voyage into sonic exploration by way of ‘Arabian Night Lights’.

    Atmosphere, and by extension, geography, is a big component of this release. Track titles like ‘Mirage I’ (and its sequel ‘II’), ‘Sea, Swallow Me’ and ‘Sonar Therapy’ point in this direction, sometimes on and sometimes off land. Careful not to neglect the many landscapes that the Arabian Peninsula has to offer. 

    While we can’t ignore the setting of this work, this need not come at the detriment of the huge weight of darkness that permeates throughout the sound of this entire record. This is heavy scary ambient that flows like a bad and inescapable nightmare. Many of these tracks speak like large but distant sounds in what would otherwise be the cold dead of night. ‘Dead Zone’ drones and horns like a boat far out to sea. With fishing in the Arabian Sea often undertaken illegally by unidentified boats that evade radars by deliberately turn their tracking systems off, these ominous drones taunt with the destructive weight of an illegal vessel.

    There are memorable moments to be found here with ‘Live Arena Fog’. Just shy of 7 minutes and on the shorter side for the album, the track’s ritualistic chant circle-like quality has a dramatic murkiness to it. Repetitive chimes coil through, stopping and starting, and with layers of tribalistic drone wafting through. 

    Despite being made of distinctively different tracks, there is a soft and at times unrecognisable transition between tracks that blurs them into one another. It’s perhaps fitting that the tracks ‘Mirage I’ and ‘Mirage II’ float out and then into their book-ending (leaving one to question whether they were ever there at all?). Ending with ‘State Twelve’, the closing track encapsulates much of what had come before. Heavy drones and a heavily processed piano loop ride this album out to its conclusion.

    Jayden Barber
    Jayden Barber

    There are avant-garde qualities to this music that rescue it from being purely dark. The atmosphere skews more in favour of dark ambient than it does ambient classics. A heaviness permeates throughout the record, differentiating it from many well-known ambient albums. It’s still atmospheric, but absorbs its surroundings with a huge and impending dread. 

    Clocking in at around 115 minutes, there are a variety of uses for this quantity of sound. It’s not a casual listen, and most certainly not for the faint of heart. The darkness of night is stamped all over ‘Arabian Night Lights’, and with it an appropriateness for sleep. During moments of prolonged concentration and during anything ‘mentally expansive’, this record would make good company. And of course, to lean into Jayden Barber’s original medium of film & documentary production, as a soundtrack to vast empty landscape shots or shots of a lost and uncertain individual, this music would be exceptionally appropriate.   

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